Dubai, UAE, December 17, 2016 - Team Motopark’s Jonathan Aberdein has continued his dominance at the second round of the 2016/17 Formula 4 UAE Championship at Yas Marina Circuit, but not without increasing pressure from local UAE teams.
The experienced F4 team from Germany may have lead every racing lap so far this season, however, it was Dubai-based Energy Dubai F4 Racing Team’s Sean Babington (#4) who shone in front of the internationals, by leading the final hit-out before settling for his fifth podium finish in 2016.
Sharing the racing spotlight with the Gulf 12 Hours event, Round 2 of the F4UAE Championship welcomed two new drivers who stepped up from karting and into circuit racing; Australian Oscar Piastri (#88), and American David Malukas (#79) who impressed with a podium finish on debut.
H.E. Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of ATCUAE and Emirates Motor Sports Federation, congratulated all the drivers for their continual improvement as they learn the craft of single-seater racing in the UAE.
“Besides the sixth successful edition of the Gulf 12 Hours race, we had four successful races of the F4UAE which saw strong competition among drivers and a remarkable progress in their performance,” said President Ben Sulayem.
“Two new drivers from Australia and the USA joined the championship, which reflects its increasing popularity. We still have a lot to do this season, however going forward to the next round at the end of January we will focus on ways to sustain the success of each round and build on it for the future.”
PRACTICE & QUALIFYING SUMMARY
Three hours of official practice on Thursday gave the newcomers adequate track time to aid their transition from karting to the Abarth-powered Tatuus F4UAE racecars. By day’s end, both were faster than last event’s new recruits, Babington and Rasgaira Motorsport’s James Roe Jr (#11) from Ireland.
The experienced Team Motopark duo of Aberdein (#21) and teammate Logan Sargeant (#23) were fastest in qualifying, with Aberdein clocking a best lap time of 2 minutes 13.310 seconds around the 5.5km circuit, 2/10ths faster than the younger karting world champion.
Malukas and Piastri qualified third and fourth respectively, both within half a second of the leader and ahead of regular steerers Babington, Roe Jr and the Qatar-based QMMF F4 Team’s Ahmad Al Muhannadi (#22). RACE SUMMARIES Aberdein and Sargeant claimed 1-2 finishes in all four 20-minute races – which included two reverse grid races – but not without pressure from both Malukas and Babington.
Fifteen year-old Malukas – the 2015 Junior X30 World Champion in karting – impressed early with a third place finish in Race 1, but Babington’s improved pace saw him finish third for the remaining three races while also and being the first local driver to take the lead of an F4 race in the Middle East. Babington, a four-time British karting champion, benefitted from the team's addition of experienced motorsport engineer Peter Sieber, who most notably engineered newly crowned Formula 1 world champion Nico Rosberg during his formative formula years.
Piastri’s initial stall on the starting grid of Race 1 sent him from 4th place to rear of the field, but the 15-year-old Australian recovered to finish sixth, followed by earning two solid fifth places and one fourth place at his first F4 event. Malukas cemented two additional fourth-place finishes but failed to complete Race 3 on Saturday after spinning out on the opening lap.
Ireland’s James Roe Jnr – another young UK karter who placed on the podium last event – put an early end to his weekend after his #11 Rasgaira F4UAE car sustained too much damage during a Race 2 warm-up lap incident. The car will now be repaired in time for the next event in late January 2017.
In the battle of the GCC competitors, QMMF F4 Team’s Al Muhannadi consistently finished ahead of teammate Abdulrahman Tolefat (#20). While the UAE’s own Saif Ben Sulayem returned to the field with his newly repaired #3 ATCUAE F4UAE car, after having sat out of Round 1 due to sustaining extensive damage at the Dubai Autodrome season-opener.
South African Jonathan Aberdein retains the lead of the driver’s championship ahead of Sargeant – who also leads the rookie standings – with Babington sitting third outright, leading the locally based drivers.
The newest motorsport category in the Middle East, F4UAE powered by Abarth consists of 18 championship races held over five rounds at both the Dubai Autodrome and Yas Marina Circuit, the Home of F4UAE.
Round 3 of the F4UAE Championship will be held at the Dubai Autodrome from January 27-28, 2017, where Races 8 to 10 of the season will be contested. More information about F4UAE can be found at www.f4uae.com
Dennis Layher, Team Motopark Team Manager: “Clearly the challenge this weekend got harder and the competition is getting closer. The other teams are doing a good job and they are learning quite quick, and we have to be careful to keep our pace. And Jonathan also knows that Logan is not far away to challenge him for the wins, and one mistake is enough for Logan to make the jump. So they both challenge each other and that is all part of the learning.”
Sean Babington, Energy Dubai F4 Racing Team (#4): “It’s been a really good weekend. We’ve have Peter Sieber this weekend which has made a big improvement on our car. It’s a like a totally different car to what I raced in Dubai last month. We’re getting closer and closer, getting good starts and having a bit of fun learning the race craft in cars, since this is still only my second race meeting out of karting. The championship is really taking off with two new drivers joining, and there’s more local sponsors supporting us like Kinnersley Kent who helped me this weekend, so I’m happy to repay the faith with some good results.”
RESULTS: Race 1: 4th, Race 2: 3rd, Race 3: 3rd, Race 4: 3rd
Oscar Piastri, Dragon F4 (#88): “Making my circuit racing debut at Yas Marina Circuit is quite an extravagant debut but it’s been really enjoyable. It’s a big weekend in terms of learning which is why we’re here and everyone at Dragon F4 has helped so much. It’s been tough physically from the I'm used to in karting, but having so much track time across all the practice sessions and racing really means you can develop your setup and develop your driving a lot more. In practice I was there or thereabouts with the Motopark boys on one-lap pace, but I just need to work on a bit of consistency. So once I get that sorted and learn how to race a bit more in this type of car we should be up the front more often.”
RESULTS: Race 1: 6th, Race 2: 5th, Race 3: 4th, Race 4: 5th